Will Google-AOL help consolidate IM?

by Mathew on December 21, 2005 · 4 comments

It may be nothing but a footnote to the Google-AOL deal, but to me (and others like Stowe Boyd at Corante and Gary Price at SearchEngineWatch) the proposal to blend GTalk and AIM into a seamless instant messaging service is the icing on the cake — and if there’s one thing I love, it’s icing.

It may take some technical voodoo, but at least it takes us down to two main networks — since Microsoft and Yahoo have said they plan to make theirs interoperable. I’ve been using Trillianand Gaim (which Paul Kedrosky over at Infectious Greed also seems to like) because I know so many people on other networks, and I haven’t used GTalk because I know most of them won’t switch applications just to talk to me.

And why should they? It’s like asking people to get a new cellphone because your phone can’t call theirs. It’s absurd — and that means it has to change. Will Microsoft or Yahoo ever agree to make their networks compatible with GTalk? It seems pretty unlikely right now, since all the big companies seem to see IM as a kind of Trojan horse that can bring VOIP and a host of other services to users, and help achieve “lock-in.”

I think they are wrong. Lock-in is something that very few companies achieve (operating systems being one of the main exceptions) and it’s particularly unlikely to happen when — as with IM — the whole point of the software is to be more connected and communicate with others. Anyone who facilitates that, whether it’s Trillian or Gaim or Meebo and other Web-based IM clients, will benefit.

Update:

Julian Bond at Voidstar has some interesting thoughts on the IM front as it relates to VOIP, and the Googletalk blog has some more info if you’re interested in that angle and how it relates to Libjingle.

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